Wednesday, December 12, 2012


#2: To remember the past

Trains are not new.  Not by a long shot.  There was a time when trains shaped America, connected it, and transported all its people.  Trains brought the trappings of civilization to my ancestors in the west.  They transported some of my ancestors to the west!

In my family history is the story of a young man returning to Utah from his mission in Europe.  When he got home, he complained to his mother about how boring the train ride across the Great Plains was.  "Mile after mile, for three straight days, everything the same!'

"I know, dear," his mother said.  "I walked the whole way . . ."

More recently, there was a time when streetcars adorned every street in downtown Salt Lake City.  There was a time when the best basketball players at Spanish Fork High School were from Salem, because the people from Salem had to catch the train to school early in the morning, and so had time to practice before school.  There was a time when everyone took trains!

Also of historical interest, some route numbers shown on this map (1, 2, 3, 18, 19, 20, 23) persisted until the 2007 redesign.  I suddenly noticed that one day and was newly fascinated by the map for longer than I care to admit here.
One of my colleagues, contemplating this map, said, "doesn't that seem a bit excessive?"  Do you really need a streetcar down South Temple, and 1st, and 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th, and 5th South?  Well, it depends on your development pattern.  There was a time when plenty of people took streetcars down all these streets, because there were places to go.

You can read elsewhere about America's awkward transition from streetcars to buses (and get wildly different takes on the matter).  Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree that cars have reigned supreme around here for many decades now, even if that reign is becoming harder and harder to maintain.  For a long time, when we talked about trains, we talked about them in the past, wistfully imagining what it would be like to get anywhere you wanted all the time on transit.

Now, we can remember the trains of the past when we ride the train.  And I'm very grateful for that.


  1. Today I took my two kids up to meet my husband for lunch. But instead of driving, like we've always done for these types of lunch dates, we took FrontRunner and Trax. The whole trip lasted four hours instead of two, and I was exhausted when we got home, (toting two little ones onto and off of various trains and keeping the two-year-old out of harm's way at the stations and walking between the trax station and our final destination while carrying the baby was tiring) but we had a good time. My son LOVED watching, riding on, and waving goodbye to the trains. (You can see his grin on facebook.) We'd probably do it again. :)

    1. Sounds like quite a trip! I'm glad it was fun and not drudgery :) I love it when FrontRunner = happy kids. I had a co-worker whose wife and kids would come up on TRAX sometimes to meet him downtown for lunch. Once she texted him a picture of their kids looking excited on the train, and he showed it to me and we both went "D'awww . . . " and couldn't work for several minutes because of the cuteness.

  2. Looks like the 6, 8, 11, 16, 17 also persisted until 2007. I also remember seeing a photo of a UTA bus in the '70s with "26 - East Millcreek" in its destination sign, so I bet that's derived from the 26 in this image. Maybe even the 4, the 7, the 8 and 11 if they went to Sugar House, and so on. Who knows? Maybe even the 12 went all the way to Murray back then. Wow. Fascinating for sure.

    1. Yeah, I wish that map was bigger and showed the ends of all the lines. Maybe someday I'll find a bigger version.